Country of originUnited States
TypeHeight-Finder Radar
Frequency5400 to 5900 MHz[1]
Power~5 megawatts (peak)[2][verification needed]

The Avco AN/FPS-26 Radar was an Air Defense Command height finder radar developed in the Frequency Diversity Program with a tunable 3-cavity power klystron for electronic counter-countermeasures (e.g. to counter jamming). Accepted by the Rome Air Development Center on 20 January 1960[3] for use at SAGE radar stations, the AN/FPS-26 processed height-finder requests (e.g., from Air Defense Direction Centers) by positioning to the azimuth of a target aircraft using a high-pressure hydraulic drive, then "nodding" in either a default automatic mode or by operator command. The inflatable radome required a minimum pressure to prevent contact with the antenna which would result in damage to both (technicians accessed the antenna deck via an air lock.) To maintain high dielectric strength, the waveguide was pressurized with sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which technicians were warned would produce deadly fluorine if waveguide arcing occurred.[4]

FPS-26 units were installed at Luke AFB, MacDill AFB (1961), Hunter AFB (1961), Chandler AFS (1961), Baudette AFS (1963), Las Vegas Air Force Station (1963), Montauk AFS, Lockport AFS (1962), Fort Fisher AFS (1962), Winston-Salem AFS (1962), North Charleston AFS (1961), Aiken AFS, and Sundance AFS.[1] Charleston AFS, Charleston, ME (exact date of installation unknown some time between 1961–1963) Acme Missiles & Construction Corp., Rockville Centre, N.Y. built the radar tower facilities at Missile Master, Pittsburgh Defense Area, Oakdale, Pa.[5]

Classification of radar systems

Further information: Joint Electronics Type Designation System

Under the Joint Electronics Type Designation System (JETDS), all U.S. military radar and tracking systems are assigned a unique identifying alphanumeric designation. The letters “AN” (for Army-Navy) are placed ahead of a three-letter code.[6]

Thus, the AN/FPS-26 represents the 26th design of an Army-Navy “Fixed, Radar, Search” electronic device.[6][1]


A variant was the AN/FPS-26A with better ECCM capabilities.[7] which was installed at Cambria AFS (1963), Klamath AFS (1963), Point Arena AFS, Boron AFS, Hutchinson AFS, North Truro AFS (1963), Calumet AFS, Selfridge AFB, Empire AFS (1963), Finland AFS (1963), Fortuna AFS, Opheim AFS, Highlands AFS, Gibbsboro AFS (1963), Watertown AFS (1963), Saratoga Springs AFS (1963), North Bend AFS, Mt. Hebo AFS, Benton AFS (1963), Oakdale AFS, St. Albans AFS (1963), Manassas AFS (1963), Cape Charles AFS (1963), Minot AFS, and Makah AFS.[1]

In July 1965 for missile warning the AN/FPS-26 was modified to the Avco AN/FSS-7 SLBM Detection Radar for the AVCO 474N SLBM Detection an Warning System.[1]

The foreground radome with dark-clad support structure houses a USAF AN/FPS-26A just completing construction c. late 1962 at the Missile Master military installation at Fort Lawton Air Force Station, which had a Direction Center in the nuclear bunker. The two radars without radomes are US Army AN/FPS-6 heightfinders; the radome with an open steel grid support structure is an FAA search radar; and the two radars with radomes and white clad support structures are USAF AN/FPS-6A heightfinders.


  1. ^ a b c d e Winkler, David F. (1997). "Radar Systems Classification Methods". Searching the Skies: The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program (PDF). Langley AFB, Virginia: United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command. p. 73. LCCN 97020912.
  2. ^ AN/FPS-6 @
  3. ^ Smith, John Q.; Byrd, David A (c. 1991). Forty Years of Research and Development at Griffis Air Force Base: June 1951 – June 1991 (Report). Rome Laboratory. Archived from the original on April 8, 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  4. ^ "Radar Handbook" (PDF). 1990. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  5. ^ Missiles and Rockets, April 17, 1961, p. 50.
  6. ^ a b Avionics Department (2013). "Missile and Electronic Equipment Designations". Electronic Warfare and Radar Systems Engineering Handbook (PDF) (4 ed.). Point Mugu, California: Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. p. 2-8.1.
  7. ^ [full citation needed]Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency